Every generation frets about its progeny. Socrates railed against the effete youth of classical Athens. Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” caused their parents sleep by their addictions to jazz, automobiles, malt shops, chewing gum and movies. Essentially, as a minor extension of our incessant, annoying and absurd demand for flawless, “philosopher king” gods and leaders, we want flawless children who will do what we want them to do and like what we want them to like.
This is the silly, unfulfilled, unfulfillable wish that makes us happy when perfectly respectable, adult musicians of our own or previous generations record and release music for children. This is why there was a market for the children’s disco collection that came out not enough years ago, and for ex-convict/murderer Huddie Ledbetter’s excursions into the nurseries of the nation late in life, and even, I swear, for collections of children’s songs sung by the Rat Pack. Thirty years ago, Dean Martin-adoring parents wanted to envision themselves living with their children and their children having some Dean Martin records around, and so they were susceptible to Dean Martin recordings of children’s songs, hoping to make their children start liking that music very early in life.
Today, indulging similar fantasies, we are susceptible to buying our children and grandchildren this set, which includes such “gottahaves” as Dr. John’s version of “Toyland,” Billy Preston’s “Clementine,” Taj Mahal’s “If I Had a Hammer” and, for some reason, Cybill Shepherd’s take on “Toora Loora Loora.”
So it’s a set based on our hope that we will have something in common with our children and grandchildren. It’s not so unbearably saccharin that adults accustomed to the voices on these recordings won’t be able to stand them, which is a good thing, because we wouldn’t want Rosemary Clooney’s version of “Fuzzy Wuzzy (Wuz a Bear)” to be unbearable, would we? Little ones like it too, based on several days observed play in the Pediatrics Department of a local hospital.
Hey, they’re going to listen to something. Make it something you can listen to, too.